Pet owners know the pain of leaving their furry friends home alone.
Now, local consumer robotics start-up Sybo Tech Singapore has developed an electronic companion called Pebby, an orange-sized robot which rolls around, keeping its charge entertained while delivering videos of its antics to the owner.
The transparent plastic ball, which contains a wide-angle camera, is believed to be the first device of its kind. It can be programmed to keep an eye on a child or frail old person, or for general surveillance, though its inventors thought first of dogs and cats.
"We have pets of our own, and we created Pebby to both keep an eye on the pet and keep it entertained when it is home alone," said company co-founder Hansen Goh, 26.
Pebby, which has a a diameter of about 9cm and weighs about 150g, stands for Pet Entertainment Bot, or PEB, and was renamed Pebby to "make it more comical", according to Mr Goh.
It connects to the home's Wi-Fi network and streams a live feed of the camera's view to a smartphone, tablet or computer. When it rolls, gyroscopes keep its camera level and pointed forward. A user can control it remotely using an app or program it to follow his pet by putting a collar that contains infrared sensors on the animal.
"Pebby can be set to automatically follow your pet, or to move away or towards it when it comes close, which keeps it entertained," said Mr Goh.
As the device was designed so that pets could play with it as well, its material was chosen carefully to ensure it would be safe, he said.
"It's important to make sure the thickness of the case withstands shock, impact and biting," he said, adding that the company is getting certification to prove the material is safe for pets.
Mr Goh co-founded Sybo Tech last May with a Russian friend, Mr Maksim Kolin, 27, who is now based in Singapore. The company has already raised $150,000 and is now in the process of raising a second round of funding of about $250,000 for production costs.
The robot will go on sale via crowdfunding website Kickstarter in April next year, said Mr Goh. The devices will cost about US$240 ($339) each. However, there will be a special price of US$199 for those who back the project on Kickstarter, where an initial run of 5,000 will be produced and sold.
Dog owner Christina Sim, 30, is eager to try it out. She said: "Due to work, I have to leave my nine-year- old Maltese in the company of my sister-in-law's cocker spaniel. Such a device will be convenient for me to keep an eye on and supervise him any time of the day when I am out at work to keep my mind at ease."
"It'll be great if we can talk to our pet remotely too," she added.
Mr William Hooi, founder of non-profit Singapore Makers, a community that advocates technology and innovation, said it looked like a cool toy for pet owners.
"There are plenty of pet-centric gadgets out there so the market is definitely quite huge for it," he said.